LOS ANGELES — The UCLA gymnastics team is two meets away from a second straight national championship. The Bruins barely mentioned that fact this week heading into the NCAA championships in Fort Worth, Texas.
2019 GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIPS: Updates, schedule and results
"The personality of our team is more about focusing on the little things and focusing on taking one event at a time or taking one skill at a time, even," junior Gracie Kramer said. "Because we have that mentality, it's more fun and it's surprising when the numbers fall into place."
The Bruins need the numbers fall into place two more times this season to end the year — and head coach Valorie Kondos Field's career — with the program's eighth NCAA title. In a new postseason format that reduces the number of teams in the NCAA final, the margin of error has shrunk to even smaller than a 4-inch balance beam.
Follow along as senior @MToronjo recounts the Bruins' travel and first day in Fort Worth for the NCAA Championships. pic.twitter.com/Ayn6NtQH2M— UCLA Gymnastics (@uclagymnastics) April 18, 2019
Here's what to know about the NCAA championships.
How are nationals formatted?
From "Super Six" to "Four on the Floor," this year's NCAA championship is comprised of two quad-meet semifinals Friday with the top two teams from each semifinal advancing to Saturday's four-team final at 4 p.m. PT.
SELECTIONS: Here's who's competing in the 2019 championships
No. 2 UCLA will compete with No. 3 LSU, No. 6 Utah and No. 7 Michigan in the first semifinal on Friday at 10 a.m. PT. The Bruins will start on vault, rotating through bars and beam to finish on floor. The rotation order was determined by blind draw.
Top-ranked Oklahoma, No. 5 Denver, No. 8 Georgia and No. 13 Oregon State will compete in the second semifinal at 4 p.m. PT on Friday.
Congratulations to 2019 West Region Coach of the Year @OfficialMissVal! https://t.co/gjMMdkbJZg pic.twitter.com/OJ21iIpAjs— UCLA Gymnastics (@uclagymnastics) April 18, 2019
Individual NCAA event champions are determined by the highest scores from both semifinal meets.
What's at stake for UCLA?
The Bruins are trying to repeat as national champions for the first time since 2003-04 and send head coach Valorie Kondos Field into retirement with her eighth NCAA title.
FOLLOW THE JOURNEY: See the regional brackets
Repeat champions have been a trend in recent years: Alabama went back-to-back in 2011 and 2012, Florida completed a three-peat from 2013-2015 and Oklahoma won in 2016 and 2017. The Sooners also shared the national title in 2014 with the Gators for the first-ever co-team national championship.
Who to watch
Oklahoma, led by junior Maggie Nichols, is UCLA's main road block to back-to-back titles. The top-ranked Sooners are coming off a season-high 198.475 in the regional final. It is the highest score in the nation this season, besting UCLA's top mark of 198.4. The Sooners are the only team to have beaten UCLA this year in head-to-head competition, winning a dual meet in Norman, Okla., on March 3 by 0.2 points.
A casual leadoff 9.95 beam routine by @katelyn_ohashi at the NCAA Regional Semifinal. https://t.co/TmGhDAMhwn— UCLA Gymnastics (@uclagymnastics) April 18, 2019
Nichols, who helped Team USA to a world championship in 2015, has been limited with an injury this year, but leads the country on beam and is second on bars, trailing only UCLA's Kyla Ross.
Ross, the No. 1-ranked all-around gymnast in the country, is trying to win UCLA's first NCAA all-around title since Samantha Peszek tied for the crown in 2015. LSU's Sarah Finnegan, an alternate for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, and Utah's MyKayla Skinner will challenge UCLA's star junior. Ross and Finnegan are the only gymnasts to record perfect 10s on beam this season. Skinner is known for her dare-devil difficulty, including a double-twisting Yurchenko vault when a one-and-a-half twist is already enough to earn a 10.0 start value. The Utah junior opens her floor routine with a double-twisting double back tuck, an H-rated skill in the FIG code of points that maxes out at the I level.
The first semifinal also includes LSU's Kennedi Edney, daughter of former UCLA point guard Tyus Edney. The junior was the NCAA champion on vault in 2017 and has two perfect 10s this season.
SENIOR MOMENT: UCLA's Katelyn Ohashi looks to make final statement on floor
After finding viral fame with one floor routine earlier this year, UCLA senior Katelyn Ohashi will end her career with a routine that honors influential women in music including Tina Turner, Janet Jackson and Beyoncé.
NCAA gymnastics championships
When: 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT Friday (semifinals), 4 p.m. PT Saturday (final)
Where: Fort Worth Convention Center, Fort Worth, Texas
Watch: ESPN2 (semifinal 1), ESPNU/ESPN2 (semifinal 2), ESPNU (final)
This article is written by Thuc Nhi Nguyen from Los Angeles Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.